Neil D. Theobald
is president of Temple University
I became Temple's president on Jan. 1. Within the first few weeks, I became aware of two pressing problems facing the university's athletic programs.
First, although women outnumber men among our undergraduates, only 42 percent of our athletic-scholarship money was going to females. Federal Title IX law requires that the money spent on sports reflects the gender proportion of our student body.
Second, several of our teams were saddled with woefully inadequate or impractically distant facilities. For example, our rowing teams' boathouse on the Schuylkill was condemned in 2008 and we were facing a price tag of at least $10 million to renovate it. Meanwhile, our men's baseball and women's softball teams were playing in Ambler, meaning those students had to commute for nearly two hours a day to and from practice.
Clearly, we needed to act. Over the past year, we worked to find a solution. This process was excruciating, in part because I insisted that it not depend on raising student tuition. I believe that many colleges and universities are pricing themselves out of the reach of many families, and we at Temple pride ourselves on providing affordable access to qualified students of all income levels.
Among other factors, we looked at how Temple compared with our peers in the American Athletic Conference in terms of the number of teams we support. We found that only the University of Connecticut fielded as many teams as Temple, at 24. The median in the league is 17.
Learning this, the solution became clear: We needed to cut back our athletic offerings, especially in men's sports. The university's Board of Trustees agreed, and after careful review of an in-depth analysis, unanimously accepted our recommendation to eliminate five men's sports (baseball, crew, gymnastics, indoor track-and-field, and outdoor track-and-field) and two women's sports (rowing and softball). The reductions become effective July 1.
As anyone who runs a university or a business can attest, there is no ideal way to make major reductions when they directly impact people we value. We in the Temple administration know that most of the affected student-athletes and their coaches are devastated by this decision, and we are doing all we can to mitigate their pain. Students will keep their scholarships and will have access to academic support services. We will assist those teams that want to convert to club status, as well as athletes who choose to transfer to other universities.
In the aftermath of the announcement of these cuts, many have pointed to our football program as the root cause or the obvious solution. They are simply wrong. Any potential savings from reallocating football scholarships to other sports would be more than offset by the resulting loss of television revenue from our conference's new seven-year contract with ESPN and CBS Sports. Football is not the reason for this move.
This decision was a difficult one for everyone involved. It is never easy to end traditions that have meant so much to so many over the decades. But we are confident that we did the right thing, both for the university as a whole and for sustaining a quality athletic program at Temple for decades to come.